The videogame industry is a rising and ever changing industry. It takes innovation and determination to stay ahead of the curve. Vincent Olivieri and Richert Wang are well aware of that.

Professor of Drama and Associate Dean of the Claire Trevor School of Arts, Vincent Olivieri and Computer Science Lecturer in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences,
Richert Wang have joined together to create a course that will help their students integrate sound design into the videogame-making process in a way that’s never been done before at UC Irvine in an effort to bridge the gap between the arts and technology.

According to the professors, “Sound is one of the major components of video games. It develops the experience for the player.”

Professor Olivieri and Professor Wang are striving to develop a class that incorporates hands on experience and puts an emphasis on the coexistence of the technical and creative processes. They want to contest the common separation of creativity and technology, and instead, wish to innovate and integrate within the game-making process.

Within the UCI community, the Chancellor and the administration have redoubled efforts to have the entire campus connect culturally and creatively. In adherence to this, the professors are attempting to connect the arts to technology through active learning.

To educate students through active learning, the professors plan to:

  • “Walkthrough” some of the technical details in lecture describing how sound is integrated into game mechanics.
  • Talk about different samples of sounds in various games while having the class discuss the experience/impressions that they have (which helps students think of different ways to “fine-tune” the experience they want to achieve)
  • Allow all students (computer game design students and sound design students) to creatively explore their sound design decisions within their group projects.
  • Dedicate class time for project demos allowing students to explain their decisions, allowing the class to see what other groups have created, and having the students interactively ask questions about the design elements.
  • Dedicate class time for industry guest speakers to discuss “real-world” applications/anecdotes of sound design, and how it fits into the overall game creation pipeline.

“Specifically in terms of our students,” Professor Olivieri explained, “my students in the drama department know a lot of sound design for theatre and can apply creative techniques for game development, but they don’t have technical skills and vice versa for Richert’s ICS game design students.” Neither of their students have had the opportunity to experience a crossover that will help them develop the skills that they lack, until now.

“We’re trying to introduce them [students] to aspects [of videogame creation] that they aren’t familiar with.”

According to Professor Wang, ICS students are offered game design courses, but “not everyone in this program wants to be software programmers.” There’s a  “mixed bag of people, and some want to stick to the art side of game design, so having this bridge brings more of the arts side into the technical side” and vice versa. He believes that this process is very important because “that’s what video games are,” the integration of the technical and the creative.

He emphasized that “You need all aspects to have a good video game” and that it’s important to have a “unique blend of everything.”

Industry wide, there’s a strong focus on visual language of a game’s design, but there’s not as often a strong investigation into audio landscape. Professor Olivieri believes that similarly to the theatre process, “bringing sound design into the gestation period of a game improves the quality of the immersive environment.”

According to Professor Olivieri, the main focus of the course is  “to help sound and game designers create a shared vocabulary so that they can have those conversations early on in the process and the games that they produce can be that much better.”

While they expect a large interest in the class, the space in the class is limited. Launching in Spring Quarter 2017, the enrollment max is 40 students, and they expect that the class will be filled with a large amount of ICS students. The reasoning for a maximum of 40 students is that “a smaller number, especially for project type courses, is more manageable and better for hands on experience.” The class will consist of both game design students and sound design students.

For sound design students, they are looking for students who have taken at least one sound design class and know their way around a sound design station. They can be undergraduates or graduates, but they need a basis of knowledge in sound design.

For game design students, they are looking for students who are familiar with creating simple games, have some experience with programming and game development tools like Unity, and are really motivated.

Professor Olivieri and Professor Wang also offered some advice to professors who wish to go through a similar process in class creation:

“It’s easier to get more people interested [in your project] if you are reaching outside of your department. More people have to read your proposals, which means that more people get excited, and it gets more exposure.” -Vincent Olivieri

“If you have a project, start with implementing a small module in one of your current classes, see if it works, then start to think about how you could expand. To get something done, just do it.” -Richert Wang

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